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Newspaper Clips (1940-1949)
May 9, 1940: Grave Keeper Is Completing Fiftieth Year
May 26, 1940: Congressional Cemetery Books Yield Vast Historical Data
Nov. 26, 1945: Father and Son Hurt By Grenade Detonator
Oct. 30, 1949: Congress' Cemetery a Century Ago
Washington Post, May 9, 1940
Grave Keeper Is Completing Fiftieth Year
Joseph A. Mayhew, 72, stood in the shade of an oak overlooking the Anacostia River at Congressional Cemetery yesterday. He was seeing again the flow of 50 years-a kaleidoscope of history, tinged with sadness, but overtoned with peace.
To Mayhew the white markers that he will look at tomorrow at the end of a half-century as foreman of the cemetery are milestones to the moving growth of a city in peace and at war.
With the mausoleums to 85 members of Congress, and the score and more of American fighting men, are associations as significant as the developing of the John Philip Sousa Bridge-which the bandsman's grave overlooks.
Buried a Dozen a Day
Unforgettable for the white-haired veteran at the city's oldest cemetery, are the days during the first World War when he was burying daily a dozen victims of the flu epidemic here.
Unforgettable, too, those who came back from a dozen fronts and died as an aftermath. He put them to rest, too.
Without looking at the book in the cemetery office, where the graves can be located by a numbering system. Mayhew can take you to stones hearing the names like Moore, Gessford and Humphreys-former Washington police superintendents. He calls the names like a roll of honor.
Powerful, Splendid Funerals
Those were "powerful, splendid" funerals, Mayhew declared-outstanding in the burial plot's 140-year history-though not surpassing that of Sousa, made unforgettable by the requiem of the band.
Mayhew of 1501 E street southeast, has liked his job despite its element of sadness.
"I never could get hard hearted" he explained. "You can't escape some of that-it worries you-although they may be complete strangers. Once I buried a woman, the mother of three small children. For two months after I couldn't sleep for hearing those children crying."
Buried at the cemetery too, are his father, Basil, who held the same position for 35 years before him; his mother, his wife, a sister, and a brother. He either buried or assisted at the burials of each of them.
But Mayhew is inclined to minimize the sentiment of his job. Instead he prefers to pass back over the years to the day he first started work there, and then look back towards the growing bridge and the no-less eventual future.
The Evening Star, May 26, 1940
Congressional Cemetery Books Yield Vast Historical Data
By Jessie Fant Evans
During the early years of Washington's history many of the famous persons who died here were buried in what is now known as Congressional Cemetery, at 1801 E street, S.E.
Up to the time Arlington was dedicated to this purpose it was the nearest approach that the Government had to a national burying ground.
Recent painstaking surveys of its records by the War Department and the Daughters of the American Revolution are yielding a vast amount of hitherto unavailable historical material.
With its earliest tombstones dating back to 1803, the cemetery is the last resting place of many of the patriots who helped guide the formative destiny of our Nation. Here lie, too, rows upon rows of those who defended it from the time of the Revolutionary War up to and shortly after the Civil War.
It became designated as Congressional Cemetery when Congress purchased 925 burial sites there and exercised jurisdiction as to whom might be buried in them.
From 1807 to 1877 16 Senators and 68 Representatives were laid to rest here. Many of them lie in neat, grim rows beneath identical sandstone monuments, bee-hived in shape, and referred to in the old records as "Congressional Cenotaphs."
Here were also buried many individuals at the discretion of and by executive order of Presidents of the United States Among them are envoys and the wives of diplomatic representatives from foreign lands, prominent Government officials and several famous Indian chieftains who died while representing their tribes on missions to "The Great White Father in Washington."
After more than half a century of neglect, Congress again has assumed responsibility for the care and custody of the graves of its own members who sleep beneath the cemetery's ancient trees.
The Quartermaster's Corps has been designated to restore the crumbling sandstone monuments. In connection with this service the War Department completed in February, 1929, a compilation entitled "The Plan and Location of Burial Sites in Congressional Cemetery formerly in the service of the Federal Government or the Confederate States of America." It covers the period from 1807 to 1939.
Heinline Is Superintendent
The present superintendent of Congressional Cemetery, William M. Heinline, a vestryman of Christ Church until his appointment to this post six years ago, is himself an antiquarian at heart. He has taken tremendous interest in the work.
With justifiable pride he tells you "Congressional Cemetery, thanks to the efforts of the War Department and the Daughters of the American Revolution in making its records easily available to the general public, is now one of the greatest treasure houses of genealogical record in the United States."
"Our records," he adds, "are continuous from as early as 1812 to 1813, many of them within their old jackets." It is his hope that Congress may shortly make available an appropriation for having them restored and photostated so that they too, may be viewed by all who have so that they too, may be viewed by all who have an interest in them.
The copies of the records in Congressional Cemetery which the D.A.R. have donated to it, are bound in four volumes which are the gift of the Army-Navy, Thomas Marshall E. Pluribus Unum and Susan Revere Chapters of the District of Columbia. Their range is from 1820 to 1839, 1839 to 1849, 1849 to 1856 and 1857 to 1862.
Indian Chief Buried There
Beside a giant copper beech in the cemetery lies Push-Ma-Ta-Ha, Choctaw chieftain, who fought on the side of Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. He died while negotiating a treaty for his people in Washington. On his tomb are inscribed his last words, 'When I am dead let the big guns be fired over me," a request which was complied with by the Government. "His resting place and that of John Philip Sousa, bandmaster, whose grave overlooks the Sousa Bridge rising in his honor, are the most frequently visited in the cemetery," Supt. Heinline said.
Two other Indian leaders are buried in this vicinity. One is Thomas Pegg, who served as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation. The other is Scarlet Crow, a Sioux, for whose tombstone Congress appropriated $100 in recognition of valuable services and friendship toward the Government.
In Congressional Cemetery also rests Commodore John Rogers, who rendered valuable assistance in the defense of Baltimore and refused appointment as Secretary of the Navy to head the Board of Navy Commissioners."
A recently erected tombstone is that to Ann Royall, one of this country's first woman publicists. Inscribed upon it is her own prayer that "the Union of the these States may be eternal."
Not far away is the grave of Judge Cranch, the famous jurist, author of Cranch's Supreme Court Opinions, who tried Ann Royal, for treason.
Mr. Heinline disclosed that David Herold, who drove John Wilkes Booth to his place of temporary refuge in Maryland and who was subsequently hanged for aiding in the escape of this conspirator lies in a nameless grave in Congressional Cemetery, a fact little known to this generation.
The Evening Star, November 26, 1945
Father and Son Hurt By Grenade Detonator
Two men were slightly injured yesterday while examining a hand-grenade detonator which one of them had found while walking in an area near Congressional Cemetery-the site of an Army anti-aircraft installation during the war.
James P. Stone, 48, of 1354 E street N.E., who found the detonator, said "it looked like a toy cannon." He said he put it in his pocket and took it home.
The detonator exploded while he and his son, Daniel Victor Stone, 25, were examining it later. Both suffered minor injuries on the face and arms. Police said they were peppered with scores of minute metal segments by the explosion. They were treated by Dr. Christopher J. Murphy, 1300 East Capitol street.
The detonator for a hand grenade is filled with fulminate of mercury, a sensitive explosive, police explained. They warned persons who possess or find war souvenirs to be careful in handling them.
The Evening Star, October 30, 1949
Congress' Cemetery a Century Ago
If Arlington can be said to have had any forerunner as the national cemetery for the Capital the role clearly belonged to Congressional Cemetery about a century ago.
That burial ground, strewn with graves of men once important in public life is still functioning, but its character has changed. It is now essentially a family cemetery, utilized mostly by the parish of Christ Episcopal Church, 620 G street S.E., which has controlled it since 1812. No Congressman has been interred there since 1864. It comes as something of a surprise to a visitor who enters by an iron gate at 1801 E street S.E., on which is written large the name Congressional Cemetery, to find the ledgers of Supt. William Heinline titled, "Washington Cemetery." Why this inconsistency?
The name is carried on the books of the church vestry as the Washington Parish Burial Ground, but the name Congressional Cemetery has persisted since the church set aside 100 burial sites specifically for members of Congress in 1817. Three years later burial privileges were extended to Government officials and their families. Still later gravesites were made available to foreign diplomats and their wives and to several famous Indian chieftains who died while representing their tribes in Washington.
Buried there are Elbridge Gerry, fifth Vice President of the United States; Tobias Lear, secretary and close friend to George Washington; William Wirt, Attorney General from 1817 to 1829; Justice Philip Pendleton Barbour of the Supreme Court and Abel P. Upshur, Secretary of State. The body of Dolly Madison was placed in a vault there in 1852, but was removed six years later to Virginia. George Clinton, fourth Vice President, was another for whom the Congressional was but a temporary resting place; his body was removed to New York.
Indeed, one of the cemetery's claims to fame is the fact that it is lined with tombstones to dead who aren't buried there. While such cenotaphs are not uncommon in private cemeteries, Congressional has an unusually large number of them in memory of historic Americans. The casual visitor notes such names, for example, as Henry Clay and John Calhoun on those markers. Neither is buried there, although a child of Clay's is.
The cenotaphs were ordered by Congress to honor deceased members buried elsewhere. The same type of monument, also rests atop the graves of members actually there. All together there are about 200 of these brown sandstone monuments, all identical in design.
The first member of Congress buried there was Senator Uriah Tracy of Connecticut, whose body was transferred from Rock Creek Cemetery in 1807. Until 1835 virtually every deceased Congressman was buried there, since the means of transportation at that time were limited and the cost of removing bodies to the State of residence was enormous. Thirty years from that time interments of non-resident Government officials had practically ceased.
Among the illustrious, one of the most recent burials was that of John Philip Sousa, the bandmaster, who died in 1932. Within a few paces is the grave of Herbert Lincoln Clarke, on whose stone is inscribed, "World's premier cornetist and bandmaster." The story is told that just before he died in 1945, Mr. Clarke asked that he be buried as close as possible to his good friend Sousa.
Going through the ledgers kept by Supt. Heinline, one is struck by the indications of heavy mortality among children up until about 45 years ago, and particularly noteworthy are the uncommon ailments that led to their demise.
Many, for instance, died of "water on the brain," a few from "summer complaint" and scarlet fever; one boy died "in fits" and another "while swelling." Among the adults there was a spate of dropsy cases, several died "in bilious," others had "jaunders" and it is clear that consumption, as tuberculosis was known then, was quite prevalent.
Congressional began very early in the 19th century, when a handful of men purchased about 4 1/2 acres because another nearby burial ground was too low and watery. They ran it until it was clear of debt, then transferred it to the vestry of Christ Church. It was added to in succeeding years, and today it comprises 30 acres. In the early days lots were priced at $2 to enable the poor to buy them. It was also provided that no "infidel" should be allowed burial.
Congress, from time to time, made minor appropriations to assist in the upkeep of the cemetery, but through the years some resentment has been expressed that it was not entirely living up to its responsibility. At present the Government, according to Mr. Heinline, does maintain its own grave area.
One grave is undistinguished by any headstone--in fact, is unidentifiable as a grave except that the grassy plot has sunk slightly. It is the grave of David Herold, who was convicted and hanged as a conspirator who helped John Wilkes Booth to escape after the assassination of President Lincoln. The grave is beside the monumented grave of his father, A.G. Herold, who died in 1861.
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